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I went in to St. Joseph’s Health Centre here in Toronto to have some staples removed. Early last week I went in for a very minor procedure – to remove a rather large cyst on my head (near the hairline). I had an appointment today to have the staples removed.

I went in to the registration office of the “Ambulatory Care Centre” – a fancy way of saying out-patient clinic – to register and let them know that I had shown up for my appointment. I dutifully gave them my hospital card and my  health card, so that they could then in turn update my patient file and charge OHIP for the visit.

During the registration I got the strangest question which just shocked me… “what is the name of your church?”. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. What does my religious affiliation have to do with my requiring a medical professional to pull some staples from me? It’s a publicly funded hospital, therefore it doesn’t matter what the patient’s religion is, the hospital still has to treat them. My answer was “I prefer not to say”. The response I got was a long stare, as if she was daring me to give in and tell her.

For me this goes to the heart of the separation of Church & State. It’s a Catholic hospital which got grandfathered into the public health system. As a Catholic hospital it does not recognise same-sex relationships (so if your partner is in the ER or ICU you are not considered a family member) nor does it perform abortions; though, as per a Supreme Court ruling abortions are no longer illegal, but a doctor cannot be forced to perform one. I personally do not like the idea that an institution that receives public funding can inflict, yes inflict, it’s religious mores on the general public.  I had no say in the matter as to which hospital was the site of my minor surgical procedure – that’s where the plastic surgeon has surgical priviledges. So if  I have no say in where my treatment will occur, therefore being forced to go to a catholic hospital, I am in a sense being forced to abide by religious tenents which do not fit in with my outlook on life and spirituality.

I personally hold to the idea that institutions with religious affiliations should not received public funding unless they are prepared to abide by the general rules – i.e., don’t ask me my religion when I go in for an outpatient appointment, don’t ask me who my spiritual advisor is, and don’t assume that I will want to be receiving the eucharist while recovering from surgery.

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